Cardinal Bernard Law on Friday said records that have already led to allegations of child sex abuse against 80 priests would be “combed and combed again” in upholding the Boston Archdiocese’s promise to uncover past accusations.
Speaking at Logan Airport after returning from the Vatican, Law said he was saddened that some priests who should have previously been removed have remained active. There are 930 priests in the archdiocese.
“Our intent is to do everything we possibly can to ensure the protection of children,” Law said.
He refused to comment on a Boston Globe-WBZ-TV poll released Friday that showed nearly half of 800 Catholics surveyed said they want him to resign. The poll also showed 58% surveyed believe Law has done a poor job handling the widening scandal.
Last month, Law announced the archdiocese would report abuse after documents in the case against defrocked priest John Geoghan showed at least some officials knew of the accusations but did not alert authorities.
The number of priests accused grew Friday from 60 to 80 after church officials in the last two of the five-county archdiocese submitted names to county prosecutors.
The archdiocese was also hit Thursday by two new lawsuits alleging the church knew of the abuse but failed to stop it; earlier this week, two other former altar boys filed a separate lawsuit against a priest accusing him of molesting them.
Other lawsuits have been filed by people alleging abuse by Geoghan and by the victims of former church worker Christopher Reardon, who was sentenced to 40 to 50 years after pleading guilty last year to molesting 24 boys.
District attorneys said the archdiocese has been less forthcoming with names of victims, which they need to begin investigations.
“We’re operating on a good faith basis, but if too much time elapses, we will demand more forcefully,” said David Procopio, Suffolk County District Attorney spokesman.
A Suffolk County hot line for sexual abuse victims had received 70 calls by Friday. The Norfolk County district attorney’s office has established a hot line and asked the archdiocese for information on eight more priests named by alleged victims.
Liam Keyes, 61, said Law should stand his ground because many of the allegations took place years before Law became cardinal in 1985.
“The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints,” Keyes said Friday after Mass at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Boston. “I think he should withstand this storm. He came out publicly being sorry for it.”
But Robert Panico, 41, of Quincy, said Law should step down.
“If it was me, it would have been on my conscience,” Quincy said. “He should have brought it out earlier. It does do damage to the church.”